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I was “away from home” ever so briefly a week or so back. The colleagues I was due to meet and work with my first full morning abroad had yet to arrive, and given the beauty of the spring morning, I went out for a brief walk.

As I often do when traveling, I was looking with great interest at all that surrounded me, and I was snapping pictures. “Toto was not in Kansas anymore”, so to speak, and I wanted to remember what was all around me. It was then that I noticed the odd looks, if not stares, from those who quickly passed by on the street all around me.

Touristen” was likely their thought. “I must look silly” was mine. Seeing the above captured “headless” reflection, I could not help recall that book from generations gone by “The Ugly American”.

As I looked up some summary info on the book, the following synopsis reminded me that lessons to learn, and awareness to maintain, is the same today as 30 or more years ago….and I’m glad I have the picture to prove it.

This is a book that is certain to deepen students’ understanding of the complexity of international affairs. Its terse, episodic style and its many portraits of individuals engaged in the process of diplomacy give readers an important sense of the dimensions of the problems which receive such cursory treatment on the nightly news. The Ugly American is mandatory reading for the citizens of a participatory democracy, in terms of understanding the mistake of the past and in order to prevent their repetition in the future.
“(chs.d211.org)

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It’s out there. I can feel it, but I can’t see it. There is a party going on, and I’m choosing to sit at home.

It’s day one with no Facebook. Why, you may ask? Because I was feeling the void: the void of what I was missing. Keeping up on FB was becoming a bit of a numbing crutch, so to speak.

So, here I am. I’ve read some this morning: actual books. I plan to do more. I need to exercise more, as well. I will work on how to tie these disciplines together.

10 pounds and 3 books, maybe more, and I will let myself stop by the party and say “Hi” on occasion, but I feel like there is more to see and do.

It’s out there. I can feel it, but I can’t see it. Not yet, at least, but it is growing brighter by the minute.

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…and spiritual disciplines: don’t let me neglect spiritual disciplines.

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Matthew 19:23-25
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

How so? Well, for starters, the camel must have a few things taken off it’s back for that to possibly work, and even then, it’s not easy. Accordingly, those who are rich may need to give up a thing or two to get where they want and need to be.

Which brings me back to the topic of the moment. I have some goals, and I’m having trouble working toward them. It seems I may be trying to carry too much thru the gateway that is my mind. The goals? More reading; books that is, for one. I have a few patiently awaiting my attention.

Social Media? I may admit to being hooked on it. Does that surprise you?

The Socratic method is a way to seek truths by your own lights. I admit to enjoying the new realm that is Social media, especially the FB. It has largely taken the place of television, which is OK, but also much more. I learn a lot about others, but in writing/blogging, I’ve also learned some things about myself. But to seek truth by my own light? Hardly: my bulb burns too dimly for that.

There are some things I want to pursue, and greater effort toward some spiritual disciplines may help: Prayer, study, service, blessing, fasting?

I could stand to lose a few pounds, and these disciplines should only serve as a reminder/aid. I feel like I may be getting a little soft, both up top and around the middle.

So, for the strategy: a Facebook Fast. I’m going to delete the FB Apps from my iDevices, at least for a season. Perhaps until the holidays? I don’t know. When I’ve hopefully lost 10 pounds, I will plan to be back. I may have to get Little Frau to help me know what all is going on. It certainly won’t be the first time!

So, here we go. I hope to keep Blogging, so watch for it off the grid if you are a reader. I may even tweet from time to time.

This camel is going on a diet. Hopefully what is left behind will pull me thru when the time Is right.

After all, the gate is only the beginning.

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You can tell a lot about a hotel by how it is “equipped”. How was my lodging on this trip? Pretty nice, to be honest. The place my colleagues and I stayed was a small Inn located in a quaint Silicon Valley hamlet not far from our “secret” meeting locale. Aside from there being no coffee in the room, I can’t complain.

I found it interesting, however, to find the restroom equipped with an
ultra modern push button phone right next to the toilet. Ultra modern, maybe, when it was installed in 1985, that is. I wonder when the last time was that this phone set was used.

And it got me to thinking. (sorry to spoil the fun)

This visit to sunny CA was all about educational delivery systems, transformation versus substitution, pedagogy, and such. Our university has long prided itself on being a leader and innovator in putting technology to use in promoting student learning.

In the 60’s, we had a nationally recognized reel to reel tape dial up system where every student had a private assigned study carrell to use for accessing recordings of professors’ lectures. It was still in use during my freshmen year, and it seemed cool even then, although dated and old. That same year, we put the first computer lab on campus. They were Apple IIe computers, and my life was changed forever once I discovered the back room where they were set up.

Fast forward 26 years. My same university, where I am now a bleary eyed administrator instead of a wide eyed freshman, is using the latest Apple technology. But, much like the “Bat. Phone”, is it misplaced and unnecessary? iTunesU, anyone?

A laptop for every student; a chicken in every pot. Is that what the masses really need; is that what they are clamoring for? Is that what we need in order to transform?

They say the only things guaranteed in life are death, taxes, and change, and for many Republicans, only a partial subset of that list is necessary. (you choose)

To quote the past philosophers of Jefferson Starship/Airplane fame, “winds of change are blowing by”. We need to get on board that bird.

No matter the format, I have faith my colleagues and I will navigate the changing climate and find a way to step it up a notch.

If you have some thoughts on that, feel free to give me a call to discuss. During our call, please ignore if you hear water running in the background. In this modern era, there’s no telling where I might be when you call…

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Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. (Luke 1:1-2)

Richard Wright pointed out to us this morning in a discussion of Luke’s account that inspiration does not necessarily require originality. Touché. Arigatou gozaimasu – thank you very much, in Japanese.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was written in the 1950’s by children’s book author and theologian C.S. Lewis, and was the third tale in his Chronicles of Narnia series. It details a young hero and heroine being drawn back across time and space to the land of Narnia, where good is at war with evil, not all is as it seems, and heroic voyages and responsibilities call forth to the characters present.

Sounds a little like the present day. However, in this era of modern narratives chronicled by digital photography, the world wide web, social media, blogging, and the like, we often see the story unfolding before our eyes, seemingly as if the final plot has not yet been written.

Our young heroine boarded a ship last evening, not of wooden sailing vintage, but of Cathay Pacific Airship caliber. And, much like the mythical Starship Enterprise, time and space are relative as she seeks out new frontiers.

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As she began her voyage at 1:00 AM PDT, family and friends had already lived those measured hours, restlessly sleeping at a time zone two hours removed. As the airship ventured out into the blackness over the Pacific, our Dawn Treader and her faithful companions were literally flying “toward the past”, over land and sea measuring points historical in time, until such point that they “warped into the future”, courtesy of the international dateline. One man’s Sunday afternoon is another woman’s Monday morning, but who can decipher which is which? Quite the “time/space continuum”, indeed.

Prince Caspian, as we will refer to him today, has remained behind on the distant shore with Little Frau, myself, and a cast of thousands. His swashbuckling exploits will await another day, as this narrative journey unfolds before us.

Returning to our original “source of inspiration” narrative for today, that being the book of Luke, we see it ending as follows: “So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.” (Luke 24:52-53)

Amen. Sail on, Dawn Treader. We will spend our time in the Temple, and await with great Joy your return and the forthcoming real time tales of life across the seas.

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Frank Navasky: She fell in love with Generalissimo Franco!
Kathleen Kelly: No, don’t say that. Really. We don’t know that for sure.
Frank Navasky: Well, who else could it have been? It was probably around 1960.
Kathleen Kelly: Do you want some popcorn?
Frank Navasky: I can’t believe this! I mean, it’s not like he was something normal, like a socialist or an anarchist or something.
Kathleen Kelly: It happened in Spain. People do really stupid things in foreign countries.
Frank Navasky: Absolutely. They buy leather jackets for much more than they’re worth. But they don’t fall in love with fascist dictators!

(dialogue transcript courtesy of IMDB)

YGM fans likely recall the preceding dialogue, and the infamous Frank. From his typewriters to his twisted philosophies, this character was definably crazy. Crazy from the heat, one might suggest.

It has been blazingly hot in Oklahoma for weeks on end, and records for days in the triple digits are dropping like under hydrated flies. But, in the middle of this heat wave, people are doing some very strange things. Just this past week, a volunteer at a charity golf tournament in a conservative small town in northern Oklahoma took all her clothes off in the middle of the event as part of a putting challenge. Too much sun. Too much to drink. Too little protection. Crazy from the heat.

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And yesterday: let’s talk about yesterday. It was “tax free day”. A reported 45,000 people stood in line in 108 degree plus heat for 4 hours to “save money” while spending hundreds or thousands at the newly opened outlet mall in OKC. Admittedly, I have fallen victim to the euphoric heat the word “SALE” creates on a sign or a website. There is something about all caps letters shouting at you in a hot red color. And the bargains: “We can’t let them get away”. We don’t, but we let our money run, if not evaporate in the heat. Americans, yours truly especially, are bad about this. It may be hard to eat our bargains if it gets hotter in the future.

And shopping for anniversary gifts for the one you love. It seems that all logic and reason go out the window, especially with an August anniversary. Crazy from the heat.

Other “Crazy from the heat” moment examples out there? Here are but a few:

Beach living. Expensive condos. Over extended. Over exposed. Spring Break parties. Massive sunburns. Pictures to prove it. Crazy from the heat.

Anger. The heat of the moment. I just boiled over. That burns me up. Crimes of passion. Wars have been started and millions have died over seemingly small events. Crazy from the heat.

Politics. Nominating/electing somebody based on how simply how they look and sound, and the resulting euphoria and hope for change. Crazy from the heat.

And how about love?

It happened in Texas. People do really stupid things in foreign countries.

Absolutely. They buy leather jackets for much more than they’re worth. But they don’t fall in love with fascist dictators!

Hmmm. I think maybe she did, and she has the legacy of past gifts to prove it. Crazy from the heat.

Maybe crazy is not all that bad, after all. It is certainly not in short supply! 🙂

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“God is subtle, but He is not malicious. I cannot believe that God plays dice with the world.” – Albert Einstein.

I’ve long thought that to be true, but now wonder if He is not often times speaking to us more directly. Take a random walk with me, and see if you agree.

Many of us recall the “Rocky” movie franchise. He started his saga in the slums of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. The movie details him out running past a group of likely unemployed young men standing on a street corner singing “Take it Back”. Four movies later, some good, some less than good, and Rocky is back in the same neighborhood, a rags to riches to rags scenario, but he is still “Rocky Balboa” at the core, albeit changed by time, experience, and the impact of money.

I have experienced in the past 24 hours what I’ll dub “the day of diatribes”, polite though they may have been. This may or may not be considered just one more of the same by the time you finish this reading.

The first diatribe was by a Facebook friend protesting the use of the American flag as a form of forced advertising by a local realtor who placed them in every yard as far as the eye can see.

The second diatribe hit a little closer to home. It was written by a youth minister in Texas about the problem of increasing costs in higher education, specifically private faith based education, and the amount of debt it takes for many to get an undergraduate degree. The university for which I work’s mission statement is “Transforming Lives for faith, scholarship, and service.” Trust me when I say we do not intend for that to be “debt service”, and are listening and seeking solutions to the broad based problem of the higher education industry making our experience affordable and relevant. Pardon my digression from the topic at hand.

The third diatribe dealt with the problem of sensationalism and desensitizing in our mass media, all to get attention and “viewership”. It is a well written piece about things that are good and true, and you can read it at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/rdc-editorial-whatever-is-good-true-beautiful/

The fourth piece, more a reflection than a diatribe, was a personal look at living a purposeful life, and not a life of “Shadow Purposes” as we are so prone to do in this rich society. It can be read at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/chasing-my-shadow-purpose/

The final referenced piece in the “24 hours of diatribes” was my own, preceding this one, mind you. I read an article this morning about the NBA lockout and some of the quotes in a war of mega millionaires fighting mega millionaires over who gets the bigger share of the billions being offered by the masses at the alter of modern day entertainment. I love the NBA, but this article made me mad, and I suspect it will do the same for many fans as what promises to be a protracted labor negotiation fight plays out.

To paraphrase author Donald Miller, I think we all have forgotten that we are just trees in a story about a forest. The forest may be on fire all around us, but we are too focused on the near surroundings and our own concerns to notice.

The global economy appears to be badly broken. We have “stored up treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19) and need to be prepared for a different day and age, even within the lifespan of some current generations. The economic storm is raging as we speak in benefit rich European society, and the tsunami is racing toward us across the Atlantic even now. Societies are in debt up to their eyeballs; we are soft; we are spoiled. And fundamental societal things are changing. We are aging. The balance of trade and who makes and who buys is evolving. Health care is a concern. The U.S. Government won’t be able to pay for it all or fix all that ailes us. All the while, I fear we are standing on the beach arguing over who gets the bigger share of sandbags while we should be moving to higher ground to stay safely out of the coming wake.

Our societies often have found themselves in these moments in history, and it seems they are often ultimately resolved by fighting a war. The U.S. War for Independence; the French Revolution; the U.S. Civil War; WWI; WWII; the Middle East conflicts. Its about a groundswell of the masses when they can’t get what they want and need, and when the establishment is out of touch. We may be entering another “let them eat cake” moment, I fear. Get the picture?

I think the establishment may be catching on. One of the more telling advertisements running on TV today is “More Saving: More Doing; That’s the power of the Home Depot”. We need to realize that David Stanley (OKC auto dealer) does not really lead the way. The Mathes Brothers may have “our style at our price”, but they will never know us by name.

As I began to pour these random reflections down and try to tie them together cohesively, I looked through the “categories and tags” section of my blog site, and a huge percentage of those previously used seemed strikingly relevent. Take a look at all those listed at the end of this and see if you agree.

After an early morning of pondering these thoughts, I got into the car to come to the office and was immediately presented with “Awakening” by Switchfoot playing on my car radio. God is subtle, indeed, and He was speaking right to me.

Face down with the L.A. curbside endings
In ones and zeros
Downtown was the perfect place to hide

The first star that I saw last night
Was a headlight of a man-made sky
But man-made never made our dreams collide, collide

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

Last week saw me living for nothing but deadlines
With my dead beat sky
But this town doesn’t look the same tonight

These dreams started singing to me out of nowhere
And all my life I don’t know
That I’ve ever felt so alive, alive

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, I’m bleeding

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna live like I know what I’m leaving
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, it’s beating, it’s beating, I’m bleeding

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
But you’ve been talk, talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening
Dream, we’re awakening

So, where do we go from here, in this digital community, and in each of our own “cities of brotherly love”? Maybe we are a little like that prizefighter who has gone one or two rounds too far, and needs to reset. What is our task? More saving, more doing? Maybe. Less spending, more doing? Likely. More sharing, more caring? Absolutely. Heightened attention spans are in order. We’re awakening. The bar is raised. A groundswell is happening all around us, and a tsunami may (or may not) be headed are way. Let’s move to higher ground and be ready.

Take me back.

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